I’m not sure how things are in your neck of the woods, but it’s looking like most jurisdictions are getting inline with what went down in overseas because of Covid-19 and what has been taking place in my hometown of Vancouver, BC. Things are locked down and businesses are closed across the board. If you are like me and you work in creative, entertainment or event industries, your work has just evaporated
Hopefully, this won’t last much longer than a couple months, so let’s focus on this best-case scenario and think about what we can do to make the most of this time. Honesty, I haven’t done a whole lot over the past week. It became clear I had been suffering from some major burnout and the one silver lining was that it forced me unplug and take a break from the perpetual searching, organizing and gig preparation that goes with being a working DJ. Fact is, I haven’t had a legit vacation in over a decade.
Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re a DJ, isn’t your life already kind of like a vacation? Yeah, it kind of is, but when you do it 4 or 5 days a week and throw some production into the mix that involves 12 hour days well, it really does feel like a job. To put it in perspective, when I was young I had a friend who worked for Playboy, and he still managed to bitch about this job, so… Needless to say when the NBA suspended their season and then Live Nation suspended all tours and events, I knew my goose was cooked. When companies are willing to forfeit that much money it shows you how serious this situation is and how much we may just not know about it yet.
I did my last few gigs that weekend with each one feeling weirder and weirder. This strange underlying feeling of anxiety hung in the air in the venues that looked emptier and emptier as the week went on. By Saturday night I knew that next week the clubs would be closed. It’s what they were doing in Italy, France and Spain, so the writing was on the wall and it was all just a matter of time. On Tuesday the hammer came down and St. Patrick’s day festivities would be cancelled. Thank God. It was the right thing to do.
I didn’t listen to music for the next week.
That’s pretty much a new record for me with my only exposure being whatever the grocery store is playing when I venture out there once a week. Then I broke the music fast to check out D-Nice’s epic Instagram set that captured over a hundred thousand sets of eyeballs including Stevie Wonder, Michelle Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah.
Now that I’ve wrapped my head around this and let the beats back in, what can we do to make the most of this unprecedented event?
1). Take a break
This may be the only time we will have to do this on such a wide scale. Before youstart getting busy, which we all will have to do in one way or the other, take this time to replenish your physical and mental energy. We may not have the ability to do this again for a very long time, so make sure you get this sorted out before getting busy again. These are extraordinary times and we all need to take the time to wrap our heads this catastrophe. Stay ahead of the game cause if you find success and the gigs start rolling in, then burnout is very real. Our personal health and that of our loved ones is the most important thing.
I think we’re all realizing that at this point.
There is no better time to go through the often arduous task of organizing your music library then right now. It will make your job easier and make your performances better. You’ll thank yourself for it once the world gets back up and running and the gigs start again. I break mine down into genres, of course, but you can go further, such as:
– Energy / Vibe
– Openers and Closers
– Seasonal (Christmas, Halloween, St. Patricks, Cinqo de Mayo)
Find a skill that is lacking in your game and wood shed that shit until it becomes automatic. There are so many resources out there for developing this and YouTube has thousands of free videos to help you up your game. Logic, Ableton and Final Cut Pro are all offering 90-day free trials, so jump on the opportunity if you’ve haven’t already.
4). DJ Mixes
Think about where you want to play and how you want to promote yourself. For me, I will start with my favourite styles like Tech House, but I will also do my fair share of open format and club gigs, so producing some different types of mixes can open some more doors for you, gig-wise.
This is a great time to really put some focus on your beats or if you’re not there yet, learning your way around one of the top DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstation) out there. Logic X, Ableton Live, Reason and Serato Beats would be my top picks (in that order) if you’re just getting started. If you’re already an intermediate or seasoned vet then just do what we’ve all been doing for years to up our game: YouTube tutorials. Or better yet, go and finish one of the hundred beats you have lying around in your hard drive sketchbook.
This is basically what we’re doing when we’re organizing our crates. In that case, we organizing music for our performances. What we’re talking about here is putting yourself in the listeners shoes and designing playlists for that. These will come in handy for a few way. First, they can act as a promotional tool for future work and give value to the listener for free. Setting up some decent playlists on streaming platforms such as Spotify, allows you to build your brand and are a great thing you can offer to clients for free. Secondly, they can come in handy when you are working events where background music is part of the job or if you need to take a break.
JT James is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. A veteran of the DJ and recording worlds. he has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova. Be on the lookout for his upcoming single with underground hip hop legend Ras Kass and his electronic music collaboration with James Landau, in 2020.